How to Check a Trailer Hitch Class

by Regina Edwards

A hitch is attached directly to the back of a vehicle to enable towing of a trailer. Each type of vehicle has a maximum towing capacity and hitches are classified according to maximum carrying capacity. The trailer hitch class should have a lower maximum towing capacity than the vehicle. If the owner or dealer doesn't provide the hitch class, you can still determine the hitch class installed on your vehicle.

Interpreting the Label on the Hitch

The hitch will bear the weight and class rating on a sticker or imprint. Locate this hitch label and write down the information, along with type of vehicle with the installed hitch.

Match the information from your hitch label and note what each value means. This hitch label specifies the following information: maximum weight carrying (MWC); gross vehicle weight (GTW), maximum weight distributing (MWD, for class 3 and above) and maximum tongue load weight carrying (maximum TW).

Use the information from the hitch label and type of car to note the hitch classifications. Use the information below to identify your hitch class: Class 1: GTW up to 2,000 lbs.; maximum TW 200 lbs. (compact cars) Class 2: GTW up to 3500 lbs., maximum TW 300 lbs. (mid sized and full sized cars, minivans and SUVs) Class 3: GTW up to 5000 lbs., maximum TW 500 lbs. (mid sized and full sided cars, minivans and SUVs) Class 4: GTW up to 10,000 lbs., maximum TW between 1,000 and 1,200 lbs. (full sized trucks) Class 5: GTW greater than 10,000 lbs.; maximum TW more than 1,200 lbs. (heavy duty trucks)

Check Hitch Class With Vehicle

Consult your vehicle's user manual for the maximum towing capacity. Write this number down as GTW. The maximum towing capacity of your hitch should be less than your vehicle's GTW. Your hitch class should have a GTW that is less than your vehicle's GTW.

Determine the size of the receiver. Take the inside measurements of the receiver (opening) and match it with the information below: Class 1 and 2 receivers have standard openings measuring 1.25 inches x 1.25 inches. Class 3 and 4 receivers have a standard openings measuring 2 inches x 2 inches. Class 5 receivers have a standard openings measuring 2.5 inches x 2.5 inches.

Confirm your hitch classification by re-checking the previous steps.

Tip

  • check Consult the dealer or owner first about questions regarding your vehicle. Consult the Department of Transportation for safe towing tips and information.

Warning

  • close If none of the information from the hitch label correspond to the above information, contact the hitch manufacturer or hitch installation company to determine your vehicle's hitch class.

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About the Author

Regina Edwards has been a freelance writer since 1990. She has penned video scripts, instructional manuals, white papers and abstracts. She has also ghostwritten diabetes journals. Edwards is a scuba instructor and Usui and Karuna Reiki teacher. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Saint Joseph's University.